This week on "Glee" combined the two elements that generally work for the show: Mean one-liners and intense emotional moments. It's audition week at McKinley High, and everyone wants to be the lead in the musical, "West Side Story." Plus, Idina Menzel's Shelby is back -- and so is her baby (aka Puck and Quinn's baby).
Some genius in the writer's room decided that this episode should open with a Brittany monologue about unicorns, which includes fun facts about unicorns you may not know. For example, unicorns poop cotton candy and black unicorns come from zebras.
Brittany wants to run the campaign for Kurt's presidency, and she wants to do it with giant unicorn posters and swag bags she's named Kurt Hummel's Bulging Pink Fun Sack. Kurt, however, thinks it's too gay, even though of "all the kids at this school, you're the biggest unicorn," as Brittany says. This week, Kurt is trying to accept himself, even if that self is someone who sings like Diana Ross and dresses like Willy Wonka, as his father tells him.
His insecurities are only made worse when after auditioning, he eavesdrops on deliberations and hears that he's not manly enough to play Tony (even if he "owned" his song like a "prison bitch"). To prove to them he can do it, he and Rachel dress up in Renaissance wear and do a scene from "Romeo and Juliet" which is legitimately horrible. He runs off-stage. It's perhaps a nod to the controversy Jonathan Groff faced last year when a writer claimed that as a gay actor, he could not believably play straight.
Unfortunately for him, Blaine's up next. Blaine gets more charming every week, or maybe it's just that he's the only reasonable human being on the show and remains reasonable even as everyone else descends further and further into showtune-fueled insanity. His performance impresses the judges, who ask him to read for Tony, even though he's only auditioning for supporting roles -- cliffhanger!
Overlooking the inherent absurdity of Shelby's arrival in Lima to run a second glee club at McKinley (because if we don't overlook the inherent absurdity of about 90 percent of the plotlines on "Glee," we could not watch "Glee"), the double mother-daughter melodrama tragedy hour that was this storyline was almost painful to watch.
Shelby wants Quinn to be involved in Beth's life. Quinn flips out and tells Shelby she'll never be her real mother! To be fair, Shelby is bafflingly callous about the entire thing, telling Quinn she doesn't want to miss Beth's first steps, her first words ... Later, Quinn reappears in a white dress and cross, blonde again. She and Puck are going to get their baby back, she says.
And Shelby is just as unfeeling to Rachel -- her own daughter who not so long ago she abandoned in favor of a fresh model baby she could really raise for herself. Rachel's pissed, but then the two duet, lips quivering, and it's all sort of fine.
Glee has formed a "Booty Camp" for bad dancers run by Mike and Schue. Basically we get to see Mike and Schue dance, which is fun if meaningless.
The worst singer in the world, Asperger's delight Sugar Motta, is the only member of Shelby's glee club. She says Shelby is nasal and grating (in fact, a lot of characters are called out this week for the same reasons they're called out for by internet commenters).
Auditions on "Glee" are always some of the best numbers on the show -- maybe they learned something from "Glee Project" where the last-chance performances, stripped down stage singing rather than technicolor fantasia, often proved to be the most affecting, powerful songs of the show.
"Somewhere," from "West Side Story" -- Rachel and Shelby: Rachel literally sings every song as if she's Barbra Streisand and it's getting annoying. Both of these women can sing their tracheas out, but it's pretty bland. It's the song as if Disney had done it.
"I'm the Greatest Star," from "Funny Girl" -- Kurt: After getting permission from "Barbra herself, Rachel Berry," Kurt does this "Funny Girl" number on a scaffold. He twirls batons and is great at it. Standard Kurt, but good Standard Kurt.
"Something's Coming," from "West Side Story" -- Blaine: The best song this episode. It makes you wonder when Darren Criss will actually get to play Tony in a performance -- he's kinetic, impassioned and generally delightful as Blaine-playing-Tony.